Senate mulls budget bill, but GOP doesn’t have the votes
by Harvest Prude
Posted 12/21/18, 02:43 pm
WASHINGTON—UPDATE: The Senate was voting Friday on whether to consider the House spending bill that designates $5.7 billion for a border wall. The motion required a simple majority to pass, but Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., voted no, giving Republicans a maximum of 50 votes, though Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie. The vote, which stood at 43 in favor, 45 opposed by midafternoon, was being held open for several senators who had already left town and were trying to return. If it fails, it makes a partial government shutdown almost certain.
If the motion passes, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the spending bill. The cloture vote requires 60 “yeas”—a near impossibility for Republicans who have a 51-seat majority. President Donald Trump met with Senate leaders Friday morning but appeared to stand firm on his promise not to sign a spending bill unless it included the wall funding he demanded. Friday morning, he laid blame for the seemingly inevitable government shutdown at Democrats’ feet, tweeting, “The Democrats now own the shutdown!”
OUR EARLIER REPORT (12:26 p.m.): Republican Senators were huddling with President Donald Trump on Friday to try to overcome a congressional impasse over border security funding that threatens to partially shut down the government at midnight.
After saying last week that funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border could come from sources other than Congress, the president reversed courses Thursday. He threatened to veto a temporary spending measure the Senate passed Wednesday night since it did not contain wall funding. In response, the House on Thursday passed a revised spending bill allocating $5.7 billion for the wall. The House bill also added nearly $8 billion for disaster relief and would fund the government until Feb. 8.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where the chamber’s 49 Democrats are likely to block it. Currently, the Senate requires 60 votes to break a filibuster and pass most laws, and Republicans hold a 51-seat majority.
Before their Friday meeting, Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to change Senate rules so that Republicans could pass the budget bill without any minority support. The president tweeted that the GOP leader should “use the Nuclear Option and get it done!”
During the Obama administration, a Democratic-controlled Senate changed the rules to allow presidential nominees to advance with a simple majority. McConnell expanded the rules to include the nomination of Supreme Court justices but not other legislative acts.
Requiring only a simple majority to pass legislation could backfire on Republicans if Democrats win back the chamber in the future. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)—all of whom are retiring at the end of their current terms—said they would not vote to approve the rule change.
The shutdown would affect about 25 percent of the government, including the departments of Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service.
Read more from The Sift Sign up for The Sift email